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What health risks are there in the Caribbean?

For winter sun, there is no better destination than the islands of the Caribbean. The clear warm seas are perfect for diving, and on shore there are stunning landscapes to enjoy, as well as magical sunsets. There are said to be 7,000 islands in the Caribbean, so there is plenty of choice, whether you want adventure or relaxation.

What steps should divers take to protect their health in the Caribbean?

On remote islands you should be aware that, should you be involved in a diving accident, you may be some distance from a hyperbaric chamber. London Diving Chamber is a source of advice for divers in remote areas.

Cuts and scrapes can take longer to heal in the tropics, so protect yourself from coral cuts by wearing a dive suit and by keeping a respectful distance from the reef.

What food- and water-borne diseases do I need to be aware of in the Caribbean?

Normal travellers’ precautions around food and water should protect you from all the usual suspects; and vaccinations against hepatitis A and typhoid will provide further protection.

You can avoid many food-borne diseases by taking care over what you eat. Go for hot, freshly cooked food and avoid salads and unwashed raw vegetables. Fruit that you can peel yourself is generally safe. Read our article on Food-borne diseases for more tips.

Check whether the water is safe to drink at your destination with Is the water safe to drink… or seek local advice. You can always stick to filtered or bottled water if you are unsure.

If you enjoy swimming in lakes and streams, you need to be aware of the risk of catching the parasitic disease schistosomiasis. Take local advice about safe swimming spots, or stick to sea bathing. Chlorinated pools are, of course, free from the parasites that cause schistosomiasis.

Insect borne illnesses in the Caribbean

Malaria is a problem in parts of the Caribbean, so talk to your travel health adviser about whether you need anti-malarials. You should practise mosquito-bite avoidance because it is possible to catch illnesses such as Chikungunya, dengue and Zika in the Caribbean. Pregnant women should be aware of the advice about Zika as this disease poses a risk to unborn children.

Will I need a yellow fever certificate for travel in the Caribbean?

There is a risk of contracting yellow fever from a mosquito bite in some parts of the Caribbean and you may need to get this vaccination, which offers good protection. Some places in the Caribbean without a yellow fever risk may not let you in if you do not have an international certificate of yellow fever vaccination. This is particularly important if you have come from a place where yellow fever occurs. Talk your itinerary through with your travel health adviser to find out if this applies to you.

Are there any other shots I should get before going to the Caribbean?

You should ensure that all your boosters, such as tetanus, diphtheria and polio, are up to date, and your healthcare adviser may recommend that you have a shot against hepatitis B.